Pharmacists reporting spike in respiratory and flu-like symptoms in last two weeks
- Reminder to avoid the flu and get the vaccine
9 December 2016: With health authorities this week reporting an increase in influenza cases and influenza-like illness, pharmacists across the country are also seeing a spike in respiratory and cold and flu like symptoms in the last two weeks, as temperatures continue to fluctuate.
With increased number of people coming to their local community pharmacist for advice on how best to treat their cold and respiratory symptoms, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) is reminding people, especially those in at-risk categories, that it is not too late to avoid the flu and serious illness this year by getting their flu vaccination at their local pharmacy as soon as possible. Flu is a highly infectious illness and the season lasts from October to April.
At-risk groups include elderly people, pregnant women, people with chronic illnesses and healthcare workers. All those in an at-risk group who hold a medical card can avail of the flu vaccine free of charge at their local pharmacy.
Ann Marie Horan, Pharmacist and member of the Executive Committee of the Irish Pharmacy Union, said, “Over the last two weeks we have seen an increase in the number of people coming in with persistent respiratory and cold and flu like symptoms. There are a number of viruses circulating at this time of year and many are very hard to shift. Antibiotics do not cure the viral cold or flu. It is best to treat a cold or flu by resting, staying warm and keeping well hydrated. People should speak to their pharmacist for personalised advice about using non-prescription medicines to ease their symptoms”.
While it can often be difficult to tell the difference between the common cold and flu, a cold is a much less severe illness than flu. Flu symptoms, particularly fever and muscle aches, tend to come on suddenly, whereas a cold usually starts gradually with symptoms of a sore throat and a blocked or runny nose.
“It is important to remember that flu is an extremely contagious respiratory illness and can lead to serious illness, even death, particularly for elderly patients and those suffering from chronic illnesses or a weakened immune system. The flu vaccination, which is available in your local pharmacy, is the best way to reduce your chances of getting seasonal flu and spreading it to others”, added Ms Horan.
The flu virus can be passed on by coughing or sneezing and can be spread from 1-2 days before you develop symptoms and for up to a week after symptoms develop. The HSE has previously warned that flu could cause up to 1,000 deaths if Ireland has a severe winter. Research has shown that the flu vaccine cuts the risk of death from influenza for elderly patients and reduces the chance of hospitalisation.
Jim Curran, IPU Director of Communications & Strategy, 086 264 0469
Editor’s Note – At-risk patients include:
- persons aged 65 years and older;
- persons 18-64 with a chronic illness requiring regular follow up, e.g. chronic respiratory disease including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe asthma, chronic heart disease including acute coronary syndrome, chronic renal disease, diabetes mellitus, haemoglobinopathies, chronic liver disease, chronic neurological disease including multiple sclerosis, hereditary and degenerative disorders of the central nervous system, etc.;
- those who are immunosuppressed due to disease or treatment including those with missing or non-functioning spleens;
- persons with Down syndrome;
- those with morbid obesity, i.e. body mass index over 40;
- all pregnant women (vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy);
- healthcare workers;
- residents of nursing homes and other long-stay institutions;
- carers; and
- people with regular contact with pigs, poultry or water fowl.